Child Development and Family Relations Majors Study Growing Issue of Food Insecurity

Posted on 4/4/2017 2:49:33 PM

Carolyn Kenyon and Ashley Whigham present at Undergraduate Scholars ForumSometimes having something to eat isn’t enough. What matters more is knowing that there will be another meal coming soon, and that it will help nourish your body. This is an aspect of life in America that many people don’t know about, and it’s one that a trio of IUP students talked about April 4 at the annual Undergraduate Scholars Forum at the Hadley Union Building.

Carolyn Kenyon and Ashley Whigham, both of Pittsburgh, and Ashley Tomasko, of Connellsville, showed off their research and conclusions to their project, “Food Insecurity: Finding a Solution to a Growing Family Issue” with a 15-minute presentation and question and answer session. The students are Child Development and Family Relations majors. The faculty sponsor for the research project is Daniel Puhlman.

The presentation on Food Insecurity was one of more than 150 during the 12th annual, one-day event, which allows IUP undergraduate students to present original research in a wide array of subjects. Additionally, there were nearly 100 undergraduate students participating in the poster presentation session.

The graduate forum will be held April 5, also at the HUB. A total of 300 students are involved in the two programs, held as part of Research Appreciation Week at IUP.

The group defined Food Insecurity as: the condition where a person or family faces the challenges of not having enough food; food that isn’t nutritious; lack of money for food; or a combination of those factors. Their research showed that one in six Americans face Food Insecurity and one in four American children live in homes that face this issue.

“The most common conditions are being worried about food running out, that you can’t have balanced meal, that you skip out on meal all together, or that the food did not last long enough,” Kenyon said.

Kenyon said the group’s research showed that the most common demographics of Food Insecure homes were ones that had low or no income, were led by single parents, and were in rural areas. It’s also prevalent among families that do not have strong social bonds with their local communities, including churches or other organizations.

She also showed data that suggests Food Insecurity leads to a variety of health issues, including Type II diabetes, high blood pressure, weight problems and heart disease. Because food is the issue, families don’t always spend money on health care, which could take care of some of these ailments.

“These families are often faced with some really tough decisions,” Kenyon said.

Whigham made the group’s presentation on a possible solution, which would be to create an organization here in Indiana County that would work to erase some of the causes of Food Insecurity.

The group proposed by the students would help educate individuals and families about things like nutrition and cooking skills, while also raising awareness in the community of the plight many people face when it comes to food.

“Outreach is the main goal,” Whigham said. “The way we could hit the ground running is to get out in community, to get to know their concerns and for them to get to know us. That way people will be more likely to seek services if they know us.”

Whigham admitted setting up a program like this won’t be easy, and that the biggest roadblock is funding. But by doing their research, the group of students believes making people aware of the problem is the first step.

“Our mission is to advocate for Food Insecure families and help spread awareness,” she said. “We’ll do this with our services.”